Full disclosure, I haven’t seen any of the Madagascar films, or the cartoons that followed. PENGUINS is actually my first adventure into this world, and I quite enjoyed it. Without knowing anything about the other films or cartoons, I found that did not matter, because this film is aimed mostly as its own vehicle and it does not need its audience to have any prior knowledge, much appreciated and a smart move.
The film starts off with an introduction to the four main penguins, Skipper (Tom McGrath), Kowalski (Chris Miller), Rico (Conrad Vernon) and Private (Christopher Knights). They are actually being filmed by a documentary crew, led by a man voiced by Werner Herzog (nice), and things don’t go well and they find themselves drifting away from their home. The film then picks up 10 years later and the penguins are experts at spy work, they break into Fort Knox for the cheesy dibbles but come across someone who doesn’t like them. They find out that Dave (John Malkovich) the Octopuss (or is that Debbie?) has it in for them and all penguins. They must stop his evil plans before the penguins of the world are stolen.
Not only that but they have to face and learn to work with an organisation also out to stop Dave (or Debbie?) led by Classified the wolf (Benedict Cumberbatch) and his team. There is a lot going on here, but it seems to work. You have a small backstory of the penguins, and a sad backstory of sorts for Dave, and inbetween you have The North Wind who are trying to help. The heart of the story and the film is the penguins, as they should be. They are the stars, and they are developed fairly well and they are all very likeable for kids and adults a like. The comedy from them comes often and it is always welcome, each penguin has his own personality and no doubt each person will come away from the film with a favourite.
The other star here is John Malkovich as Dave, Dave is a sad character, hell bent on revenge but for reasons I think are easily to relate to. He does a pretty good job to convey everything he needed to through his voice, and the rest the animators did very well. The down side here is the plot felt very similar to Despicable Me 2, with the penguins (or minions) being taken with the plan of turning them into monsters. Because this plot had been done so recently it really felt a little stale, and it was done better. With that out of the way, the actual adventure the penguins go on is fun, there are a lot of jokes for the adults and slapstick for the kids. There is a nice strong message on the importance of family, that I really liked.
PENGUINS is a film I can easily recommend, it is a lot of fun and one that everyone can enjoy. While it isn’t a great animated film, it is still a fairly good one.